Nanaimo dog owner on the trail to ban choke chains

NANAIMO – Near-death experience of beloved Rottweiler has prompted Judy Rozsas to seek a bylaw banning dog devices from municipal dog parks.

Judy Rozsas shows off injuries she suffered while trying to free her dog Angel from the choke collar she and another dog became entangled in while playing at the Beban off-leash dog park. Rozsas is now advocating for a ban on the collars after her dog passed out from strangulation in the mishap.

Judy Rozsas shows off injuries she suffered while trying to free her dog Angel from the choke collar she and another dog became entangled in while playing at the Beban off-leash dog park. Rozsas is now advocating for a ban on the collars after her dog passed out from strangulation in the mishap.

A Nanaimo resident wants to see choke chains, designed to control and train dogs, banned from dog parks after a horrific experience that almost killed her Rottweiler and injured another dog.

Judy Rozsas and her 18-month-old Rotty, Angel, were leaving the Beban dog park July 8 when one of Angel’s friends, a young Great Pyrenees, arrived. They decided to re-enter the park for a few extra minutes of playtime.

Within a minute, both dogs were panicked, struggling violently with each other and shrieking in pain.

“I usually take the choke chain collar off in the park, but because this was just going to be a couple of minutes of play I second-guessed it,” said Rozsas. “Then they got locked up while playing. I heard what sounded like a vicious fight and I turned and could tell they weren’t fighting. Instantly I knew it was the chain and I began to yell.”

The Pyrenees got its teeth stuck in the chain and struggled to release itself by twisting. With each twist, the chain wrapped tighter and tighter around Angel’s throat.

In less than a minute, the Rottweiler’s eyes rolled back into its head, unconscious as her playmate dragged her. Rozsas tried to separate them and during the struggle was inadvertently bitten in the hand. She could end up losing the tip of her finger.

With the Pyrenees pinned to prevent further movement, Rozsas doesn’t remember exactly what happened next, but at some point a Good Samaritan entered the fray and separated the dogs.

“I’m calling him my hero,” said Rozsas. “I guess he had a chance to untwist Angel, unwrap her from the chain. That gave him some slack in the chain to slide it off the other dog’s mouth.”

Upon seeing Angel choked out, Rozsas felt certain she was going to have to call her husband to pick up the dog’s body.

“I watched my dog dying in front of me and based on other situations like this when choke chains are involved, the dog dying is typical,” she said.

Both dogs made a full recovery, but Rozsas wants other dog owners who use choke chains to be aware of the danger.

Bonnie Hussell, floor supervisor at Dog n’ Suds dog daycare in Nanaimo, said she is aware of several instances where choke chains inadvertently killed dogs. Dog n’ Suds has a no-choke chain policy for its customers.

“Choke chains can be quite dangerous even if the dog is by itself,” said Hussell. “It can easily get hung up on something and choke itself to death and I’ve heard of several different incidents of this happening.”

Choke chains are designed as a training tool to get dogs to respond to commands. Unsupervised, the loops in the chain as well as the larger rings at the ends pose a danger.

Hussell added there safer, more effective devices on the market to trains dogs, but if choke chains are used, they should not be left on a dog unsupervised and should be used with caution.

“I think a bylaw would be awesome, or at least some kind of education campaign,” she said.

Joan Havers, who uses a flat collar on her dog Jackson, had a similar experience at Beban dog park. Jackson was playing with a friend who got twisted up in his collar, causing the Lab-shepherd cross to asphyxiate.

“His eyes rolled back in his head, it was terrifying,” said Havers, adding Jackson also recovered from his ordeal. “Fortunately it was a quick-release collar and we got them separated. I just feel like this should be out there. I’m told this is rare, but is it rare only because they aren’t reported and these incidents are happening more often? Who knows?”

Jeff Ritchie, Nanaimo’s senior manager for parks, said Angel’s experience is the first he is aware of at a designated dog park in the city, and that implementing a bylaw banning choke chains would be difficult, but not out of the question.

“At this point we’re not considering any restrictions at our dog parks and the reason for that is we just don’t have that kind of control,” said Ritchie. “I’m not sure how we would even enforce it. If it’s as dangerous as it appears to be, I would think a governing body or dog association, whatever that might be, would be the source for banning these collars, if it is in fact a problem.”

If choke chains were banned in municipal dog parks, people would still be free to use them everywhere else, he said, adding he will investigate further.

Rozsas said she will work toward a ban on choke chain collars in Nanaimo dog parks and wants to launch a public-awareness campaign to alert dog owners of the dangers.

“I’m in mission-mode to make sure that I do what I can to get the [dogs’] voices heard. They can’t tell us they don’t want to wear these things so I’m going to be their voice,” she said. “If Angel could tell her friends to not let her owners put these chains on them she would, so I’m going to be her voice and I’m not going to shut up until I get it done.”

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com